Kendell Williams in action at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships (© Kirby Lee)
Kendell Williams smashed the world indoor junior record* in the pentathlon to provide the highlight the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday (15).
The 18-year-old from the University of Georgia tallied 4635 points to add 100 points to the previous mark that Sweden’s Carolina Klüft set at the 2002 European Indoor Championships.
Williams opened the competition with an 8.21 clocking in the 60m hurdles, the first of five personal bests she would set in the competition.
She followed that up with a 1.88m clearance in the high jump, another career best and higher than the winning mark in the individual event. Next, she reached a personal best 12.05m in the shot put and leapt 6.32m in the long jump to set another PB and equal her best ever outdoor jump. She then closed the competition with a 2:17.31 run in the 800m, yet another outright personal best.
In a strong competition, 2013 winner Erica Bougard finished second with 4586 points.
The standout performance on the track came courtesy of Phyllis Francis, who produced a world-leading, albeit altitude-assisted, 50.46 in the 400m.
The sizzling dash by the 21-year-old University of Oregon student was the fastest in the world for seven years, and chipped 0.08 from the previous US indoor record of 50.54 set by world indoor champion Francena McCorory in 2010.
Francis won by more than a second from world junior champion Ashley Spencer, from the University of Texas, who clocked 51.71. The two later played key roles in the 4x400m relay, which brought the two-day meeting to a dramatic conclusion.
Waging a thrilling dual on the final leg, Francis gradually made up a .32 deficit and overtook Spencer in the waning stages to bring Oregon home in 3:27.40, an NCAA record, the third-fastest in the world this season and a mere 0.02 ahead of Texas.
Francis’s final leg was clocked at 50.64, Spencer’s 50.99. The victory lifted Oregon to the top of the team standings with 44 points – just half a point ahead of Texas – to clinch the Lady Ducks their fifth straight team title at these championships.
Lawson sails to 8.39m world lead
The 1507m altitude at the Albuquerque Convention Center was kind to the sprinters and jumpers throughout the weekend.
The most notable performance on Friday’s programme came in the men’s long jump with Jarrion Lawson’s breakthrough 8.39m leap, another 2014 indoor world lead.
The second-year student from the University of Arkansas, who won’t turn 20 until 6 May, fouled three of his six jumps, but also managed an 8.01m effort in round five before his big leap in the sixth.
Lawson, the 2012 world junior bronze medallist in the event, has an outdoor best of just 7.93m from last season but this weekend added plenty of evidence to support the claim illustrated in his twitter handle: @I_Am_TheFuture.
Corey Crawford, of Rutgers, also cleared eight metres to finish second with 8.01m.
Lawson’s performance overshadowed a solid performance by Kaitlin Petrillose on the same day in the women’s pole vault.
She won the competition with a 4.60m leap which added five centimetres to the previous NCAA indoor mark set by Slovenia’s Tina Sutej two years ago.
Entering the meet with a 4.45m best set at this same venue in early February, the 21-year-old Petrillose needed three tries to equal that, but then topped 4.50m and 4.55m with her first attempts and cleared the winning height with her second. She then bowed out with three no-pressure attempts at 4.71m.
The men’s competition was a quality one, with Shawn Barber of the University of Akron improving his own Canadian indoor record to 5.75m.
Barber, who turns 20 on 27 May, was the 2012 world junior bronze medallist and entered the weekend with a 5.66m indoor personal best from early February.
Sam Kendricks, the World University Games and NCAA champion outdoors in 2013, topped out at 5.70m to finish second.
Another world lead came in the men’s 200m on Friday night where Alabama’s Diondre Batson edged Dedric Dukes, of the University of Florida, by just 0.02 in 20.32.
Batson returned to the track on Saturday in the 60m where he finished a distant third in 6.58 behind winner Dentarius Locke, of Florida State, who clocked 6.52.
As expected, world leader Deon Lendore of Trinidad & Tobago and Texas A&M University won the 400m in 45.21. Vernon Norwood and Arman Hall were second and third respectively in 45.46 and 45.52.
Dezerea Bryant, of the University of Kentucky, won the 200m on Friday night in 22.69 but her double victory bid was dashed by Alabama’s Remona Burchell in Saturday’s 60m, with the latter claiming a 0.01 victory in 7.11.
Distance doubles for Cheserek and D’Agostino
A pair of double victories highlighted action in the distance events.
Kenya’s Edward Cheserek, just 20, added the 3000m and 5000m indoor track titles to his cross country accolade from the autumn to lead Oregon to the men’s team title.
Cheserek wasn’t too tested in either race, winning Friday’s 5000m in 13:46.67 by more than six seconds over his compatriot Lawi Lalang and Saturday’s 3000m in 8:11.59, more than a second-and-a-half clear of of Oklahoma State’s Kurubel Erassa.
Lalang, of University of Arizona, who lowered the NCAA indoor record in the mile to 3:52.88 one month ago, was defeated over this distance as well on Saturday, losing to another Kenyan, Anthony Rotich, the Texas-El Paso student winning in 4:02.54 to 4:02.81.
Abbey D’Agostino, of Dartmouth, added NCAA track titles number four and five to her collection, first with a 16:20.39 victory in Friday’s 5000m and then a 9:14.47 win in the 3000m on Saturday.
She took both races handily; in the former she was more than two seconds clear of Aisling Cuffe (16:22.48) and the latter by more than a second-and-a-half ahead of Dominique Scott (9:16.05).
Texas' Ryan Crouser, the 2009 world youth champion, dominated the shot put with a 21.21m winning effort.
Florida State’s James Harris won the high jump at 2.32m and then just 90 minutes later clocked 45.90 in the 400m heats. He qualified for the final of that event, but tripped and was later disqualified.
British long jumper Lorraine Ugen, of Texas Christian University, added the indoor title to her outdoor crown last year with a personal best leap of 6.73m, while Duke’s Curtis Beach won his second heptathlon title, tallying 6190 points.
The closest race of the two days of competition?
The women’s 60m hurdles, where just 0.016 seconds separated first place from fourth. Sharika Nelvis, of Arizona State, won from Baylor’s Tiffani McReynolds. Both were credited with 7.93 personal best performances.
In the heats of the 60m hurdles, Sasha Wallace broke her own North American indoor junior record with 8.08, just 0.02 away from the world junior indoor record. She looked set to break that mark in the final, but fell after clipping the fourth barrier.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
*pending the usual ratification procedures